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MMPZ statement on staffers' bail suspension
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
December 09, 2011

This morning Gwanda magistrate Mr Douglas Zvenyika granted $50 bail to MMPZ staffers Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda, and MMPZ's Gwanda Public Information Rights Forum chairman Gilbert Mabusa, with no reporting restrictions.

This follows their arrest and detention by Gwanda police on Monday, December 5th on charges of contravening some provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

However, state prosecutor Blessing Gundani responded to the magistrate's ruling by immediately invoking Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA), which effectively suspends the magistrate's order for seven days to allow the state to file an appeal against the order in the High Court.

In other words, the state has successfully managed to deprive Fadzai, Molly and Gilbert of their constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty for at least another seven days, despite the fact that Magistrate Zvenyika did not consider the three to be a "flight risk" as argued by the state in opposing their bail appeal.

MMPZ understands that the state today added an alternative charge of undermining the authority of the President against the MMPZ officials in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Code law. The state did not explain the circumstances in which the three are alleged to have committed this offence.

Fadzai, Molly and Gilbert, were originally charged with contravening section 25(1) (b) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), for allegedly 'participating in a gathering without seeking authority from the regulating authority'. They are also accused of contravening section 37(1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, by 'distributing material likely to provoke a breach of peace' when they were arrested on Monday.

Section 121 of the CPEA clearly allows prosecutors to usurp the powers of judicial officers and its constitutionality is being challenged in a number of cases that have yet to be heard by the Supreme Court.

MMPZ believes that invoking Section 121 in this case represents a malicious action by the state that unnecessarily deprives Fadzai, Molly and Gilbert of their right to freedom.

In a statement issued today by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), whose members are representing the three MMPZ officials, the organization said:

"The frequent abuse of this draconian piece of legislation (Section 121) is being used to the prejudice of suspects as prosecutors are clearly usurping the powers of the judiciary who, in this case, had safeguarded the fundamental right to liberty of December, Chimhanda and Mabusa. The pressing of a new charge against the MMPZ officials is sufficient confirmation that the State is determined to deprive these human rights defenders of their liberty and keep them in detention at all costs."

MMPZ is obliged to concur.

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